It’s easy, it’s crammed with flavor, and it’s versatile! It’s a casserole, of course! Kind of. If you’re like me, the word “casserole” makes you gag a little, and your standard casserole is *certainly* not paleo-friendly, but never fear. This casserole (which we shall call a “bake” from now on) is delicious and perfectly paleo.
1 head cauliflower
1.5-2 lb chicken breast (or meat of choice)
6 white or crimini mushrooms
1 cup spinach leaves
2 cups salsa verde (homemade is best, of course, if you’ve got the time and the stuff! If not, Herdez is a good brand although I think it’s hard to mess up green salsa.)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp onion powder (or, alternatively, about a 1/2 cup minced onion)
1 tsp garlic powder (or a couple cloves of minced garlic)
Other vegetables, to your liking. (I added diced bell pepper to my side and cheese to my husband’s side)
Avocado and tomato, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400F.
Rice the cauliflower, by hand or in a food processor. I prefer to leave it a bit chunky to make sure it ends up more like rice and less like mush.
Meanwhile, cook your meat. You can go quick or you can go all “la-di-da, I’m a good cook” here- I went the quick route and slapped that chicken onto the George Foreman grill. Season as desired.
Spread the cauliflower in a 9×13 baking dish, oiled/buttered on the bottom if desired.
Pour 1 cup of the salsa verde as evenly as you can over the rice.
Layer on your veggies of choice- mushrooms, bell pepper, spinach.
Evenly sprinkle all spices over the veggies.
Using a fork (or even better- the paddle attachment of a KitchenAid), shred your meat and spread it in an even layer over the veggies.
Evenly pour the remaining cup of salsa over the meat.
Top with cheese, if you’re into it! You can see below which half is mine and which is my husband’s.
Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. The edges (cheese or not) will be bubbling and the salsa topping will have become more translucent. 40 minutes at 400 in our oven gave us the perfect blending of flavors and made sure the salsa cooked into everything, but it’s worth noting that the cauliflower was still a *bit* firm. Not crunchy, but firm. I like it this way (I think it better emulates rice), but if you would find that off-putting then you may prefer to steam your cauliflower for a few minutes first, or turn down the temp and leave it in the oven for a few extra minutes.
I am of the opinion that the tastiest food is not always the prettiest food. (See my affinity for good chili, which looks like dog food but tastes like heaven.) Can you see where I’m going with this? You will likely discover that the combination of the salsa and the moisture in the cauliflower has left you with quite a bit of liquid in the dish when it’s done cooking. It’s okay! Just serve with a slotted spoon to drain the excess. Tonight I will be making a taco soup with my leftovers (recipe forthcoming), and I think all of that tasty liquid is going to come in very handy. I believe you could reduce some of this liquid (and make the rice even tastier) by cooking it in a skillet first, but I was in a hurry.
If you’re okay with a little flour or corn then serve with tortillas or tortilla chips! I garnished mine with tomato and avocado. Sprinkle liberally with your favorite hot sauce.